|Conspicuous, yet hard to find.|
|An example of the heavily detailed world of Martin Hanford.|
British illustrator Martin Hanford always had an interest in crowds. Growing up, he would delve into Hollywood movies that featured a heavy amount of extras in their scenes and had exciting battle sequences. Hanford constantly drew crowd scenes, blending in elements of everything he enjoyed as much as possible including history and swashbuckling epics. Eventually graduating art college, Hanford drew his elaborate pictures for editorial and advertising clients until David Bennett, art director for Walker Books, asked to see Hanford’s work for a children’s publication and suggested a unique character to serve as a focal point for his illustrations.
|The first Where's Waldo? book.|
And so, Wally was born. Wally, British slang for someone who is absent-minded, is a world and time traveler who sports a red and white striped shirt with matching bobbled hat and large, round glasses. Coming from the Land of Wallies where everyone looks the same (with some minor differences, such as different stripes, missing accessories, etc.), he wanders around to new lands and encountering its strange inhabitants, amongst which the reader is charged with finding him. In 1987, after two years of development and up to 8 weeks spent on each two-page drawing, the first book in the series, Where’s Wally?, was published and became a sensation.
|Where's Waldo? abroad.|
The book reached international markets, resulting in Wally’s name being changed to reflect where the book was printed, which is why Americans better know him as Waldo (he’s known as Charlie in France, Hetti in India and Sri Lanka, Walter in Germany, Effy in Israel, Willy in Norway, Valli in Iceland, Holger in Denmark and Hugo in Sweden). In his first appearance, Waldo was loaded down with gear that he’d lose piece by piece in each successive scene, giving the readers something else to look for besides just him. The back also featured checklists of various other things to find. Each scene would be introduced to the reader via a “postcard” from Waldo with text edited by David Lloyd.
|Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard, Wilma/Wenda, Waldo and Woof.|
To heighten the challenge with each successive book, additional items were placed around the illustrations to be found, including an equally elusive supporting cast: Wizard Whitebeard (The Great Waldo Search, 1989), the one responsible for sending Waldo on his quests and who constantly loses his magic scrolls; his dog Woof, who was only seen as a tail at first as he’d be often scared and go into hiding; his original girlfriend Wilma, who dresses like Waldo with a skirt instead of pants, triangular glasses and carries a striped umbrella (both appeared in Where’s Waldo: the Ultimate Fun Book, 1990); Wenda, Wilma’s twin sister who would replace Wilma in the books as both a featured character and Waldo’s girlfriend; and Odlaw, an evil version of Waldo with a brown and yellow color scheme and a mustache (both from Where’s Waldo: The Magnificent Poster Book!, 1991). Waldo Watchers (also from Ultimate Fun), a group of loyal Waldo fans, were included dressed like Waldo and Wilma/Wenda to add extra confusion for the reader. Originally, there were 99 of them, but later books kept the number to 25. Waldo’s appearance would also be altered slightly by Hanford, going from a chubbier face in his first appearance to having a slimmer face.
|Waldo with an Underground Hunter.|
At the height of the series’ popularity, it was decided to adapt Waldo into animated form. Developed by Rowby Goren, the cartoon was a joint venture between Sei Young Animation, The Waldo Film Company, and DiC Entertainment. The show followed happy-go-lucky Waldo (Townsend Coleman) and his dog, Woof (Dave Workman) as they were sent by his friend, Wizard Whitebeard (Brad Garrett), to the far-off lands featured in the books to help solve problems and puzzles for their inhabitants, while also picking up items to add to his collection. They traveled via Waldo’s magic walking stick, which allowed him to open teleportation portals by drawing a circle in the air. However, Waldo’s evil double, Odlaw (Julian Holloway), would always be lurking around trying to steal it. Twice an episode, there would be an homage to the books in the “Waldo Minute,” where an image would be frozen on screen giving the audience a minute to find Waldo. Much like the books, the names of the characters were changed depending on what market the show was broadcast, while the same actors were retained to record both the American and United Kingdom audio tracks.
Where’s Waldo? debuted on CBS on September 14, 1991. It was written by Goren with Evelyn A.R. Gabai, Bill Matheny, David Schwartz, Julianne Klemm and George Atkins. The theme was composed by Jeff Barry whose lyrics were also altered depending on the region. The rest of the music was composed by Michael Tavera. Unfortunately, the series only lasted a single season of 13 episodes as it was pitted against NBC’s wildly popular Saved by the Bell and suffered from poor ratings as a result. It was nominated for the 1992 Young Artist Award for “Outstanding New Animation Series”, but ended up losing to fellow CBS program Back to the Future.
During the run of the show, Waldo was featured on boxes of Quaker Life Cereal, accompanying box prizes, send away item offers, and also featured adapted Waldo scenes on the back. Waldo returned to the boxes in 1997 for the release of The Wonder Book. Little Brown & Co. released two books based on the show after its cancellation called Fun With Waldo and More Fun With Waldo, which featured print versions of the “Waldo Minute” scenes as well as new images and puzzles. Various episodes were released to VHS in the United States by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, FOX Kids Video, and CBS Video and by Abbey Home Entertainment in the United Kingdom. There were also four 30-minute direct-to-video specials released between 1992 and 1997 utilizing elements of the show. In 2009, the DVD Where’s Wall? Vol. 1 – My Left Fang was released in Australia; the only DVD release of the series to date.
|The Where's Waldo? Sunday strip.|
While the cartoon may have been short-lived, the Waldo franchise was not. It’s comprised of 28 books from both its main series and its activity book spin-off, merchandising including figurines and dolls, video games for home consoles and mobile devices, and even a comic strip. In 2019, NBCUniversal acquired the rights to the character and began airing a new animated series produced by DreamWorks Animation Television.